Sunday, July 17, 2005

Too many chives and other important gardening facts

I awoke with the determination to get outside and clean up the ridiculously overgrown front garden. It's in the style of an English cottage garden, so I can get away with it being overgrown, but it was getting to be a bit much. So, on with the sunscreen and the floppy hat and out into the garden. That's when I discovered some vital, hiterhto unknown, facts.

For example, it is possible to have TOO MANY CHIVES. I cannot stress this fact enough. I was tired of looking at the row of floppy chive plants, so I figured I would cut them all down to half their height. This would give me neater plants, and some chives to eat, thought I, plus stimulating the plants to grow more. So I cut...and cut...and cut. My basket filled with chives. There were too many -- I threw some in the compost. I dug some up and put them in pots; maybe someone else would like chive plants. I finally finished the job and lugged the load of onion-grass into the kitchen to wash it. It completely filled the kitchen sink. It took me almost an hour just to wash it all. I finally realized that I had TOO MANY CHIVES. I could give onion breath to the entire population of Istanbul. I could cover a baked potato the size of Kentucky. And worse yet, I have no potatoes in the house, and precious few recipes that even call for chives. What was I thinking? I cannot change my predicament, but I can at least let others know of the dangers of growing TOO MANY CHIVES. In the meantime, if anyone needs 10-20 cups of chives, or some chive plants, let me know. ;)

I discovered, or re-discovered, some other facts as well:

Sometimes it is TOO HOT to garden comfortably. I'm pretty sure I already knew this. I seem to recall a dreadfully hot day last summer that I alternated between weeding the garden and sitting, slumped and panting, in the delightfully air-conditioned house, wondering what the signs of heatstroke were.

No amount of bug repellant will actually keep mosquitoes from landing on me and attempting to feast on my blood. However, bug spray does seem to reduce somewhat the final number of itchy bumps I develop after being in the garden, just enough to keep me using it (surely the intent of the manufacturers, who are sitting in a bug-free office somewhere laughing their heads off at me). And bug repellant does seem to confuse the mosquitoes enough that they don't just feast and leave, but rather they circle my head and fly at my eyes, wondering in their tiny neural circuits why the walking blood-bag smells funny today.

Ants are weird. I think I knew this already, too, but I am struck with renewed astonishment that they can create an entire ant-nest in an empty plastic pot I left next to the shed. And they seem to love the taste of gladiolas. Since most of my gladiolas had fallen over (because I forgot the important fact that they need to be staked to stay upright...*sigh*), there were thick lines of ants bustling in and out of the flowers, hoping for a hit. "Hey, man, I really need a fix, and the other gladiola bar is already out of juice...just let me in for a minute, huh?" And what are those little white things ants always seem to be carrying? Are they bits of food, or eggs, or ant-suitcases, or what?

I suck at growing vegetables. This is my first year trying to grow vegetables, and apart from a few kohlrabi (which were, admittedly, tasty), my vegetable growing has been pretty dismal. I have raised some mutant cauliflower, which looks bizarre and tastes terrible, some zucchini flowers (but no zucchini yet), and some lacy fronds of asparagus which I can't harvest for three years. I put in some beans and corn, with the (probably unrealistic) hope that they will produce edible produce, but I remain unconvinced of my ability to raise food. Maybe that's why I live near three grocery stores and scores of restaurants -- the universe is telling me to give up farming. On the other hand, I do very well with herbs, so we'll be swimming in basil pesto by the end of the summer.

And now, I'm off to dinner with colleagues from work. Poor Q, who has to spend the whole night listening to psychology-talk -- that's the cost of living with an academic! But it promises to be a good meal, since my colleague's wife is a professional chef (studied in France, I think), so maybe Q won't mind too much.

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